The first time I read Waking Up White, I was shocked to hear – for the first time – that the GI Bill was not made available to the vast majority of men of color. This means that white men got an institutionally-sanctioned leg up: free college after military service and maybe even free graduate school which meant no student loans to repay which meant you could use your salary to buy a house in a nice neighborhood with good schools and low crime which meant that your own children would reap the benefits of a solid education and a neighbor with safe sidewalks which meant they, too, would get into a good college, which meant . . .
I had no idea.
This is one of the ways that white people have accumulated wealth. Sure, people worked hard, but being white = enjoying privileges unknown to people who are not considered white. This is how wealth is built and this is how wealth is withheld. But I was clueless. And I still am in many ways.
I have grown up assuming my life is the norm, my skin color is the norm, my experience is the norm. It is not.
One of the things we can do to bring about resurrection in our nation and our world is to become less clueless. We can notice and appreciate other norms, skin colors, and experiences. We can become more curious.
In order to kick start curiosity:
- Read books, blogs, articles and listen to podcasts by People of Color. These are some of my favorites. (What are yours?)
- Pay attention to who is in the room. And who’s not in the room?
- Learn about differences: the difference between Sunni and Shia, the difference between a hijab, a niqab, and a burqa, the difference between a water protector and a pipeline protector, the difference between Sudan and South Sudan, the difference between a sexual orientation and gender identity, the difference between a refugee and an immigrant.
It’s embarrassing how clueless many of us are about people who aren’t like us. And – I hate to admit this, but it’s true – the most clueless among us are the ones who look like me.
Earth will never become “as it is in heaven” until we wake up even though Jesus taught us to pray for this. And Easter is not just a day; it’s a way of life and we are called to work for resurrection in the image of Christ.
One way to start: be less clueless.
Image from the 1995 movie starring Stacey Dash, Alicia Silverstone, and Brittany Murphy.